T.J. Jones is second on Notre Dame with three receiving touchdowns, and he is third among Irish receivers in both catches (26) and receiving yards (280). The sophomore has started in seven of eight games this season, coming off a tragic offseason that saw his father, former Irish player Andre Jones, die from a brain aneurysm.
Jones' younger brother, Malachi, is also a budding football player, at North Gwinnett (Ga.) High School. Here, T.J. talks about his younger brother's progress, his own progress in his second year at Notre Dame and playing with future NFL receiver Michael Floyd.
How's Malachi's senior year coming along? What's the recruiting process looking like for him?
TJ: It's coming along well. He broke the 1,000-yard mark after last week. Set the all-time receptions record for his county, I think, last week as well. I don't think he has any offers yet, and I'm just trying to tell him, be patient. By the time signing day comes, he'll have one school. Even if it's like a small D-I, he'll have some school that'll offer, so it's really just working on him being patient.
No D-1 offers or no offers period?
TJ: No offers period.
Does he want to play football in college?
TJ: Yes, he does.
I'd imagine you and your family's history plays a big part in that.
TJ: Yeah, I would say so. (laughs)
Brian Kelly's teams have won 19 of their last 21 November and December regular-season games. He says it comes down to mental and phyiscal toughness. This is your second year here. How much further along do you see yourself at this stage in the year from last year?
TJ: I see myself way further along now than I was last year. Mentally and physically tougher. I'm not worn down. I almost feel like it's the beginning of the season now. Just my body and how practice is going. And I think it just begins with the offseason workouts and how we prepare through weight-lifting, conditioning and just mentally getting prepared for the season even though it's the offseason.
Coach Kelly said he couldn't point to one thing where the mental toughness comes from. Where's the mental toughness come from? Obviously your bodies are holding up better, but what makes you want to get back up there time after time in November?
TJ: I think the coaches put a lot of responsibility on us just to act as players and to be accountable for our jobs, which allows us to put that same weight on each other. And when it gets hard and you get beat down and you get worn out, you still want to push through and succeed because you're playing with your brothers on the field and you wouldn't want to let them down.
What's it like to learn under a guy like Michael Floyd? How much does he rub off on you and how much do you want to try to assume that mantle next year when he's gone?
TJ: He rubs off a great amount. He comes to work every day. He shows us how practice should be run every day. He makes the difficult catches. He makes the easy catches. He's the All-American player that everyone thinks he is, and it's great to learn from him and really use some tips that he gives.